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Consumer Relationships with Financial Institutions

This research project examines consumer behavior towards financial institutions. It focuses on consumer attitudes and behaviors directed at banks, credit unions, and savings and loans. It also measures a number of psychological and demographic dimensions of individuals. 

Executive Summary

Professor Lepisto's overall research project studies the changes that occur as people age and assesses how such changes are reflected in consumer behavior. Most studies of consumer behavior present a "snapshot" of consumer attitudes and behavior at the specific time the consumers included in the same are interviewed. In contrast to these studies, Professor Lepisto's research is designed as a "longitudinal" study. It is based on a panel of 2,450 consumers who were surveyed again every four years thereafter. His project's combination of longitudinal methodology, aging-related variables, and consumer behavior scales will permit measurements of effects of aging on consumer financial behavior, "trigger points" in people's lives that cause a shift in financial consumer behavior, and other relationships that will help forecast consumer financial behavior. 

What is this research about?

This report, based on his 1991 survey of consumers, analyzes consumer attitudes toward credit unions, banks, and savings and loans across several dimensions. Professor Lepisto examines consumers' evaluations of financial institutions on functional attributes such as hours, convenience, and loan rates; feelings and emotions such as security, attachment, and satisfaction; and the types of people they associate with each financial institutions such as rich, snobbish, and cautious. He also examines what financial institutions they use for various financial services, their primary financial institution, their switching behavior among financial institutions and the reasons associated with those switches.

What are the credit union implications? 

This study shows that consumers are sensitive to bad service and uncompetitive interest rates and will switch their financial provider in response to either of these conditions. As other financial institutions become more attuned to the consumer market and personal service, credit unions' edge in consumers' perceptions could be easily eroded. Consequently, to maintain their special position as financial service providers, credit unions must strive to maintain their distinguishing characteristics.

This report was sponsored by The Center for Credit Union Research at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

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